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7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job

7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job

    Layoffs. Downsizing. Transitions. It’s a scary time to be out in the job market. If you’re hunting for a job, you’ve probably been handing out resumes like crazy. The problem is that, when you really look at a resume, every single one is the same. They’re all on the same size of paper, easily shuffled into a stack, just the way human resource managers like them.

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    There’s just not a lot you can do to stand out with a resume: hiring managers have no qualms about tossing oddly-sized resumes, funny-smelling CVs and lengthy explanations about where you’ve been lately. No hard feelings about it — I did a stint in HR and I would do anything to get through that never-ending stack of resumes, even if it meant denying someone the opportunity for a job just because they had sprayed perfume on their resume.

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    There is a way to stand out without irritating the hiring manager, though: a portfolio. I mentioned fairly recently that a portfolio can go a long way in convincing a prospective employer, and that portfolios aren’t just for art students. You can have a portfolio in any career — if you paint houses, you can take photos of the work you’ve done. If you’re a software developer, you can take screenshots of your applications. No matter your field, though, there are a few ways to make your portfolio shine.

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    1. Put your portfolio online. If you email your portfolio as an attachment, no hiring manager will open it for fear of viruses. If you drop off a physical portfolio, every hiring manager will cringe at the thought of going through more paperwork. But if you simply email a link, you’ve actually got a chance of getting someone in human resources to click on it — after all, it’s just a link. It won’t take any time at all to click on it, and what’s the worst that could happen? So take the time to scan everything in. It’s worth your while.
    2. Don’t require any downloads. Don’t include PDFs, Word files or anything else that a prospective employer has to download and open. That goes double for executable files — apologies to all the fantastic developers out there, but employers would rather look at pretty screenshots than try to figure out the software you created. This may mean that you will need to take the time to ‘improve’ a project that you did quite awhile again: maybe you’ll need to add some HTML to a written document.
    3. Organize your portfolio. You don’t need to alphabetize your projects or anything like that, but it should be easy for prospective employers to figure out what to click. That means no fancy flash, no unlabelled links. As a quick litmus test, try sitting Grandma down in front of your portfolio / website. If she can’t figure out where to click, it’s guaranteed that there is an HR manager out there who will be equally lost.
    4. Add context. Write labels and descriptions for the items you’re including in your portfolio. A memo that solved a crisis at your last job may not impress a prospective employer if they don’t recognize the effect it had. Descriptions are also an opportunity to toot your own horn — you can talk about the problems you encountered and the skills you used. No matter how polished the items in your portfolio, though, your descriptions should be equally polished. Consider them a writing sample and an opportunity to show off those great communication skills that every employer requires.
    5. Focus your portfolio. Even if you’re a salesman / graphic designer / clog dancer, your portfolio doesn’t need to reflect that. Instead, you should focus on the job you’re actually going for. You can create separate portfolios for each of your career paths, but focus on what you really want to do next, not what you’ve done in the past.
    6. Go for the multimedia. Not all job skills can be expressed in writing or through photographs. Out to prove your sales skills? Maybe a few graphs showing how you improved sales are your best bet. Looking for a career as a mascot? A video of you working the crowd is bound to impress more than a picture of you standing around in costume. It’s your portfolio: you set the rules on what sort of media you want to include.
    7. Get your own domain name — or not. If you’re planning to maintain your portfolio in the long run (which can be a good thing even if you’re planning to stay with your new job for the long haul), sure, getting your own domain name is a good idea. But using one of the many sites that allow you to post samples of your work is also a good option. Say you’re an interior decorator. Your prospective boss won’t care if you can maintain a website. Focus on taking high quality photos of your work, and post them to Flickr. Your portfolio can be that easy. Just beware of user names that seem brilliant at 3 AM.

    As a rule, I try to limit my portfolio to projects I’ve actually completed at others’ requests. As awesome as I think some of my more personal work is, it hasn’t been through anything close to the critical process that something I’ve done for hire has. But if you’re looking for a few items to pad your portfolio, volunteer your services. Your work will still go through a critical process, but you don’t have to find a job just to improve your chances of getting another job.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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